Posted tagged ‘Cojuanco’


July 12, 2011

Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Good day!
The thorny Hacienda Luisita, among the grand estates of the Cojuangco family, remains as threat-filled as ever. It is a showcase of a land reform executive decision that has gone haywire. The Supreme Court’s lackadaisical behavior shown with respect to this case has made the issue more murky.
The PH Supreme Court has earned the monicker of ‘hoodlums in robes’ in the 1990s. Have the noblesse Justices of the highest court remained as just as expected with regards to issues affecting the marginal sectors in particular? Hasn’t PH dropped off that ‘hoodlums’ image yet for the Justices of its highest court?
Below is a statement from the Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network Tarlac. It sums up the update on the thorny estate.
[Philippines, 06 July 2011]

Hacienda Luista Peasant Supporters Network Tarlac
SC Decision on Luisita Land Dispute: Legalizing the Theft of Farmworkers’ Lands
We, members of the Hacienda Luisita Peasant Supporters Network – a group of individuals and organizations supporting the farmers and farm workers of Hacienda Luisita – express our utmost outrage over decision of the Supreme Court to bring the case of the Hacienda Luista back to square one by ordering the Department of Agrarian Reform to conduct another referendum among farm worker-beneficiaries to choose between shares of stocks or land.
The Network believes that the High Court’s decision today is a setback for the Hacienda Luisita farmers’ struggle for land and justice. It subjects the longest-running land dispute in the country to a mere “popularity” vote instead of advancing what is right and just – that is, to install the legitimate farm worker beneficiaries to their land by freely distributing the Luisita lands to its rightful owners. This decision sets a bad precedent for all land disputes in the country – especially those involving the anti-farmer Stock Distribution Scheme currently in place in Hacienda Luisita.
The High Court’s decision is a bitter pill sugar-coated with nice-sounding phrases revoking the Stock Distribution Option to make it acceptable to the farmers workers but, in reality, retaining the corporate scheme which prevents the actual distribution of land to the farm workers.
For more than two decades, HLI has tried to manipulate the farm workers for years. They have already raked in multi-billion profits by selling and converting sizable portions of the land and by exploiting the labor of the farm workers. But the great strike of more than 5,000 farm workers in 2004 is testament that farm workers have already rejected this kind of arrangement. Furthermore, the success of the Bungkalan campaign where Hacienda Luisita farmers and their families collectively till the land for their benefit only shows that the farmers are capable of uplifting their condition without the onerous partnership with the Cojuangcos.
Also, we believe that the referendum is a tool for machinations and maneuverings of the Cojuangcos to retain their ownership and control over the sprawling hacienda. The compromise deal cooked up last August 2010 witnessed the excessive release of money, with the HLI dangling a P150-million financial assistance package to the farmers so that the latter would give up their claims to the land.
Finally, we call all peasant advocates, truth- and justice-loving Filipinos to join the mobilizations of the Hacienda Luisita farmers in the coming days expressing their disappointment and anger over the Supreme Court’s anti-farmer ruling.


April 22, 2010

Prof. Erle Frayne D. Argonza

University of the Philippines

This development consultant and social scientist, who shortly served the GMA regime as a director at the Office of External Affairs or OEA, wishes to inform the public of a plain truth regarding the massacre of unionists by the owners-managers of the Hacienda Luisita.

That massacre was hardly warranted, as a back-channel negotiation was going on before the gory day, with Luisita unionists agreeing to withdraw their mass action and return to work. No less than palace demigods called for the backdoor negotiations, which was already in progress before the bloody event took place on November 16, 2004.

I was among the core officers who assisted Sec. Edgardo Pamintuan  organize the newly established OEA in 2004 right after PGMA took her oath (we comprised of assistant secretaries, directors, consultants). The OEA was assigned membership in the political, communications, and intelligence clusters of cabinet, to recall some basic facts.

The OEA had hardly warmed up as a ‘freshman agency’, when a directive came from the Office of the Presidency or OP, for our agency to help resolve the Luisita deadlock. My boss, Sec. Pamintuan or EdPam, had proved his talent at back-channel negotiations, being one such negotiator between the GRP and National Democratic Front, and so the application of the same ‘best practice’ to the Luisita deadlock proved all too facile for the noblesse negotiator.

Most urgently, Sec. Pamintuan instructed his executive team to contact the leadership of the federation to which the local Luisita union belonged, the Kilusang Mayo Uno or KMU. The OEA’s main task was to serve as bridgehead and clearinghouse between the various constituency groups and the OP, a task that it immediately began doing upon its very inception circa 2nd quarter of 2004. Inviting the KMU to a consultative talk was routine task for the OEA, KMU being a long established constituency group representing the labor sector.

We OEA officials felt so glad that the KMU arrived pronto right in our office at the Bahay Ugnayan – Malacañang Palace. Practically the top brass of the federation came. We gave them a warm reception, and our exchanges were very cordial.

After the issues were clarified and the messages exchanged, the federation committed to consult with the local union. The maximum expectation was for the union to withdraw its forces and end the protest, with the quid pro quo that the 300+ union officials and members who were retrenched will be allowed to RTW (return to work). [Note: Luisita’s wage was a pathetic P9.50 per day which the union vehemently protested.]

Amid the intensifying crisis, action was swift as the federation and (local) union did clarify and resolve issues during rush consultations. Finally, to our merriment, the news came to our office that the local union was already decided on withdrawing its forces/dismantling the barricade, and was ready to sit down with Luisita management to communicate their modified demands including RTW.

We were almost at the point of euphoria over the success of the back-channel talk, when the horrifying flash news reached our office that the Philippine National Police stepped in and resorted to brutal and brazen slaying of unarmed unionists and supporters. It was an utterly unnecessary move, in as much as the local union was already in the process of withdrawing its protesting forces and prepared to sit down with the owners & management of the hacienda.

As per reports brought to our office then, the Luisita management, with the complicity of top DOLE officials, called upon the Philippine National Police to disperse the protesting farm workers & supporters. It was clearly an arrogant display of brute force and one-sided communications, with no compunction shown at all during that dreadful moment of firing automatic rifles on unarmed unionists.

Not only human rights were violated on that black day, there was also a clear violation of good governance in a number of ways: (a) authoritarian management that is inappropriate to the current context; (b) distrust of the organized sector of farm workers and their disabling from participation in renovating human resource systems in the hacienda; and, (c) hubris and brazen display of excessive force in resolving a deadlock that was in a near-resolution situation.

We need not even bother to find out whether certain officers of the law are under the payola of the Luisita paymasters. Or, that certain labor inspectors and officials are likewise in the payroll of the same paymasters. Such a system of corruption has been in place for nigh decades, and has never been rooted out.

It is truly bothersome for a co-owner of the Luisita, Noynoy Aquino, to mouth good governance as a banner motto in his campaign for the presidency. The facts about Luisita affairs hardly substantiate Aquino’s claim of “hindi ako magnanakaw.” Cojuanco family’s Luisita is replete with narratives of corruption and blood spilt to sustain operations, rendering moot and delusional any claim by its owners to puritanical moralism.

Good governance is not just about “hindi magnanakaw.” It is a coherent concept that is operationalized as: (a) efficient management; (b) enabling civil society-state dialogue; (c) participative management, observing a partnering modality between labor & management and not a subordinated treatment of labor by managers-owners; (d) low to nil graft/transparency; and, (e) political will in pursuing visions, mission, objectives, and related ends.

Noynoy Aquino represents the cacique class and is a product of an oligarchic lineage and milieu. He reduced ‘good governance’ to a parochial propaganda cliché, a term that he may have little understanding about based on the practice of corporate governance in Luisita.

The last thing that ought to happen in this country is to keep on recycling oligarchic rule, an evil system that is perpetuated by non-thinking voters who are as gullible as those overseas workers sweet-talked by illegal recruiters. It is now time to put an end to this sordid evil, for prolonging it further will bring us down to a Dark Age which happens at the tail end of any oligarchic regime (e.g. classical Greece was destroyed by the Athenian oligarchs’ lust for wars against Persia).

I just hope that, in case Aquino will win the polls, and the greedy grafters and ‘kamag-anak incorporated’ around him will grab juicy state posts in wild abandon, plundering at will like there was no end to  colossal loots, I won’t end up echoing “I told you so.” Honestly, I would, and will sonorously burst with guffaws.

[Philippines, 19 April 2010. Prof. Argonza is an international consultant, academic, and Fellow of the prestigious Asia-wide Eastern Regional Organization for Public Administration or EROPA. He is also a long-time grassroots worker, serving marginal sectors for over three decades. See also: IKONOKLAST:]